Thursday, September 16, 2010

Barbara Erskine: Midnight Is a Lonely Place

Midnight Is a Lonely Place, a modern Gothic published in 1994, is the first Erskine I have read. I am always looking for Gothic Novels written in the last twenty years that are worth a darn.

I was a bit off put by the heaving bosoms and manley pointers scene in the prologue, but I felt right at home for the first three pages or so when Kate Kennedy, a Byron scholar, is introduced.

The basic plot is that Kate ends up going to a cottage to recover from a failed love affair, and spooky stuff linked to an old Celtic love affair happens. Are the spooky happenings truly supernatural or brought on by human agents?

Now, for the full disclosure. I made it to page 31 amidst sighs of disbelief and howling laughter that made my husband look at me and say, "what is it?"; then, I flung the book to the floor-- gently. The curse of a literature degree strikes again.

Plot and general storyline: 2/5 [The trouble started by page 15 when I found myself annoyed by the childish manner of Jon, the boyfriend, very quickly. He constantly flings this or that and speaks ridiculously over the top lines that no real man would say. Moreover, the narrator inserts an explanation of her characters' feelings in every few paragraphs when there is no need; that is what good dialogue is for.

Telling-- bad:  "Suddenly he was terrified by what he had done" (19).

No, no, no! Show me he is terrified. Make his voice quake, hands shake, or tears fall.

Show me the tears threatening to slide down the heroine's cheeks or let me hear her quavering voice and see her twisted hands; don't explain that "it hurt to talk about it" (21). Sigh. And definitely don't do both in the same paragraph-- dialogue and then leaden explanation that only an idiot would miss. As if that weren't bad enough, Erskine also favors short, choppy sentences and fragments. Her style makes it tough to get into the flow of the novel.

The awkward foreshadowing by the boss of how cold and desolate his cottage was is also rather trying. He must say this to Kate at least three times (okay, he does. I counted them). We get it, okay. It's a scary place. A nice bit of writing took place on pages 24-25 in my edition when the coast was described in a brief snippet. If all of Erskine's writing were like this, I could power through the book; heck if even a third of the writing were like this, I would make it. The problem is that there are way too many silly men, bad lines of dialogue, and other offenses for me to try.]

Characterization: 3/5 [The male characters are all unlikable-- Jon, the boss, Greg-- the ones I actually met. Kate just seems awkward and nervous in the mix, unfortunately.]

Atmosphere/spooky elements: I didn't make it to those, so I can't say. I hear they are good, but the bad writing was too much for me to overcome.

Literary elements: 5/5 [Yes. I loved Carl Gustav Jung the cat and the Byron scholarship background from the opening pages, and that continued and was added to as the novel unfolded.]

Romance? Not any that I was interested in. I don't like private parts shoved in my face in the prologue, so the rocky start didn't bode well for the rest of the novel. The schizophrenia of steamy sex and a man who acts like a two year old in his love relationship was unnerving.

Rating: Meh.

-- I did not attempt to rate this one with my usual star rating since I didn't read it all. I made it to page 31, and I couldn't deal with more-- definitely not some 400 pages more. I did flip through and giggle and was further convinced in the rightness of not reading to the end.

I don't recommend it since I did not fully subject myself to it. I would not expect you to suffer, but if you want to try it out, it might have its rewards in terms of spookiness. For me, it was like water torture-- every ill chosen word plinking on my head and driving me to  madness or at least giggles of incredulity.

With that said, I will give Erskine another chance. :)


jwade19 said...

I totally understand your frustration! I almost always hate her male characters, her female characters frustrate me with their pathetic "doormat" mentality, and her writing can get over-the-top.

That said, Erskine's one claim on me is her ability to send chills up my spine. I don't know what it is, but I think she can really write "don't-read-alone-at-night" well. I like it so much I put up with all the rest.

Try her book, "House of Echos" if you get a chance. It's got some of the same problems you described for MiaLP, but I think it's much better. If that doesn't please, then I think you're just not going to like Erskine.

Wordpress Theme by wpthemescreator .
Converted To Blogger Template by Anshul .